Wednesday, 25 March 2020 19:18

How to keep the new 'remote' normal from being the next headache

Andrew Huntley Barracuda Andrew Huntley Barracuda

GUEST OPINION* by Andrew Huntley regional director ANZ and Pacific Islands Barracuda: In the face of growing concerns over the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), increasing numbers of Australian schools are closing and companies are encouraging employees to work from home.

Most companies have been rapidly scaling up plans for more robust online access and secure remote workforce connectivity. None of us anticipated “shelter-in-place” and building closures within two to three days. But here we are – our new reality for the time being.

The good news is that most companies have exercised existing remote capabilities, pushed their cloud offerings and enhanced their scaling capabilities. However, few people I know in IT are entirely comfortable with the situation in which they find themselves. Plans were incomplete at best, the scale of what needed to be accomplished was underestimated — and some critical aspects like security were deferred to “later.”

Maintaining safe security practices is essential, but a step easily overlooked in the frantic rush to get everything set up. More employees working from home means that more devices are connecting remotely, outside of the secured corporate network.

Companies already working with the public cloud know that security in the cloud is significantly different than security on-premises. Many traditional workloads can’t be securely migrated without some measure of refactoring or adaptation. Many native services have limits on the number of secure remote users they will support in a given instance. There are a lot of variables.

Corrective actions you can take now

As you adjust to the new normal, you might be able to turn “later” into corrective actions that can occur now, instead of becoming yet another fire drill of issues created by this rapid, virtual reality.

One major aspect, of course, is cloud. Even if you added in new scalability to hosted options, you can still look at how to move those apps to a cloud you control. What about secure remote connectivity, cost-effective SD-WAN and virtual WAN options?

After the panic is over, the cost of everybody’s response may well become its own new issue.
Organisations should look at how they can leverage managed or SaaS solutions for access and security that are more cost effective and will work for the long-term, because frankly we don’t know if this disruption will last six weeks or six months.

The next thing to figure out now before they become their own issues is what new vulnerabilities have been created by this accelerated adoption and what damage they might inflict. Most cloud security issues are self-caused, such as misconfigurations, easily hacked pages and the like. While not impossible, it’s difficult to figure out after the fact.

Hand-in-hand with this is understanding just what remote workers are doing with data that is rapidly going out of your control.

Now the bad news. In my opinion, you’ve already gone through it. Nobody I’ve talked to feels fully prepared nor totally comfortable with this “new normal.” But now that we’re here, I believe it’s easy to fix the mistakes we’re making and rework our “new normal” even as people are dealing with remote and online access, to make it more effective and more secure.

Looking ahead to new solutions

So, what should you be thinking about? First of all, which vendors promote cloud, online, and remote access? They are your new leaders. They already understand many of the problems you have yet to face. Their partners are potentially your new best friends because they can help guide you into your new better space.

You should also be thinking about which of those vendors provide scanners or other easily accessed tools that will provide you with a snapshot of your environment today, and more importantly, what might you have missed. These tools are different than marketing-driven scans or other offers that are designed more to frighten than enlighten.

In nearly all cases, these remedies are something you can implement without disrupting anybody’s new normal.

Don’t be afraid of looking at new vendors and new solutions. In this whole morass of new normals, some of your favourite vendors may come up very short, while other providers you’ve never considered may have a different vision or capability, helping you gain control and comfort over your new all-online, all-remote world.

This is also an opportunity for you — even if it is after the fact — to craft a new normal for your organisation that is sustainable and secure. I believe many things will return to the way they were, but others will be inexorably changed.

Some things do work better online, and sometimes remote trumps onsite. Change is always an opportunity. Now is the time to embrace it rather than hide from it. Take advantage of every tool and angle that vendors may provide.

About the author

*Andrew Huntley is the regional director for ANZ and the Pacific Islands for Barracuda Networks. For more information, visit: https://www.barracuda.com/

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